Step 7: Develop a Marketing Plan
Develop a comprehensive marketing plan to outline the best ways to deliver your program's message to your target audiences. Although it is tempting to start with this step, the groundwork you have laid in Steps 1 through 6 will help you create a strong marketing plan that will ultimately deliver more effective results.
Trusted Neighbors Help NeighborWorks H.E.A.T. Squad
Through its target audience research, Rutland, Vermont's NeighborWorks H.E.A.T. Squad learned that neighbors are the most trusted messengers of energy efficiency upgrade information, rather than governments or utilities. Based on these findings, the program has enlisted well-respected local citizens and organizations to spread the word about home energy efficiency upgrades. The program works with these individuals and organizations to conduct phone-a-thons, direct outreach, and personalized home visits. As a result, the NeighborWorks H.E.A.T. Squad got off to a great start, with nearly 200 home upgrades in just six months. Read more about Rutland's program in Spotlight on Rutland County: How Local Ties Lead to Local Wins.
Create Marketing Strategies and Tactics
An effective marketing plan uses all information and insight garnered from past steps to inform marketing strategies and tactics to achieve program goals and objectives.
- Strategies are broad approaches for how you will communicate your program to your audiences.
- Tactics are specific approaches associated with each strategy.
For example, if your strategy is to use media outlets to promote the availability of discounted energy evaluations, one tactic might be to create an advertisement for local newspapers and magazines that promotes evaluations.
Your plan may have multiple strategies, but note that choosing too few strategies or tactics will limit your outreach, while choosing too many will spread your resources too thin.
Outreach tactics should be creative and attention-grabbing to truly engage your audience.
When creating your strategies, keep in mind that a person-to-person interaction is the most effective way to influence someone and change their behavior. A trusted advocate reaching out to individuals in the target audience, using personal networks and relationships, can carry your message in a personable and influential manner.
Trust research over personal opinion—it is tempting to assume that the marketing tactics that influence you will also work for your target audience. Remember: You are not the target audience, you are the program expert!
Example Strategies and Tactics
Many different types of strategies and associated tactics can be deployed successfully, depending on the target audience and desired behavior change. Some examples include:
Incentives: Incentives are effective in overcoming some types of barriers because they entice the target audience into changing behavior with a prize or financial reward.
- Example: A homeowner who recruits his or her neighbors to sign up for a home energy upgrade receives a coupon from a local business, a free energy efficient light bulb, or some other gift.
Prompts: A prompt is a reminder to the target audience to make a desired behavior change after they are already predisposed to do it. Effective prompts are specific and are present at the time of the behavior. If possible, consider including an emotional connection or humor in your prompts.
- Example: RePower Bainbridge in Washington State worked with Puget Sound Energy to develop "energy dashboards" that have been placed in public locations such as ferries, bookstores, cafes, and retail shops on the island. These LED dashboards provide real-time energy consumption levels, prompting island citizens to decrease their own personal consumption.
Better Buildings Neighborhood Program partners are testing some innovative tactics for driving demand. Learn more.
Public relations: Working with the media is critical to the success of any program's marketing effort. For media outreach to be effective, your story must be real news. Provide facts and visuals to help ensure coverage. Use caution, however, when publicizing your efforts through the media, as you can potentially lose control of the message when it is being communicated by a third party.
Social media: Social media is a collection of interactive, virtual communities that enable two-way communications among people sharing news, photos, videos, music, and other types of information. Some Better Buildings Neighborhood Program partners are using popular social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter to create communities of interested stakeholders and audiences, which enables them to exchange information about program activities.
- Example: Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance (GCEA) regularly engages the community via social media activities. Through posts on the program's Facebook page, GCEA displays pictures of its activities within the community, shares interesting articles and insights about energy efficiency in the area, and announces accomplishments to its 1,000+ (and growing) followers. GCEA also interacts with local community members, businesses, and organizations through regular tweets on Twitter.
Commitments and pledges: With this tactic, audience members are asked to publicly commit to a specific behavior. Studies show that people who make written or verbal commitments to practice a behavior are more likely to follow through. You might want to start with small commitments and build to more complex ones.
- Example: U.S. EPA's Change the World, Start with ENERGY STAR Pledge asks individuals, organizations, and partners to make an online pledge to replace products with ENERGY STAR labeled products. Participants are invited to share their actions via text or video with the online ENERGY STAR community.
Advertising: Print, broadcast, Web, and direct mail advertising can be expensive, but they allow programs to have 100% control of the message. Choose advertisement placements with the best audience reach, and include simple, timely messages that address your target audience's personal concerns.
Events: This tactic allows for direct contact with audiences. Effective events will deliver messages at locations where the target audience already gathers and practices the behavior.
- Example: RePower Bainbridge launched its program with a community event on Bainbridge Island's main commercial street. Local high school students decorated store windows in energy efficiency themes, and the program provided "Light Saver" superhero capes and masks for local kids.